Orange Thing: Should It Stay or Should It Go?

The malignantly narcissistic Orange Thing in the White House is what it is.  Despite its eternal infantilism, Orange Thing is an old dog that’s not going to learn new tricks. At age 71, it brags that it hasn’t changed since it was in the second grade. It’s going to keep running with the same kind of insane clown madness that it thinks got it to the White House – crazy stuff like calling for Barack Obama’s birth certificate, offering to pay the legal bills of whites who punch Black protesters, claiming that America was being overrun by Mexican rapists, and wondering aloud why the United States has nuclear weapons if it can’t use them. And so, every night, or close to it, the news will brim with the latest absurd Orange Thing outrage:

+ its claim to have been cheated of victory in the popular election by millions of illegal immigrant voters.

+ its charge that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.

+ its “bleeding face” assault on MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski.

+ its Tweet showing it beating up “CNN” at a wrestling match.

+ its Tweet denouncing a retail firm that dropped its daughter’s perfume brand.

+ its attempt to turn a Boy Scouts gathering into one of its permanent campaign rallies.

+ its reckless war of words with its soulmate Kim Jong-Un, replete with threats to “totally destroy” North Korea and promises of “fire and fury.”

+ the horrifying cover it gave to murderous neo-Nazis (“some good people”) in Charlottesville, Virginia.

+ its praise and bizarre advance pardon of the fascist country sheriff Joe Arpaio.

+ its reference to hurricane victims assembled in Houston as a “great crowd” (“thanks for coming out”).

+ it’s claim that the White House will make North Dakota’s drought “disappear” (“it’s all go away, you’ll see”).

+ its vicious assault on Black NFL players it called “sons of bitches” for protesting murderous and racist police violence.

+ its attack on San Juan’s mayor after it golfed through Hurricane Maria’s devastating landfall in Puerto Rico.

+ it’s absurd behavior in Puerto Rico, telling the island’s residents that they didn’t experience a “real catastrophe like Katrina” and throwing paper towels at storm victims and lecturing the island about the crushing debt unjustly imposed on them by U.S. finance capital.

its childish Twitter denigration (“Liddle Bob”) of leading Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN).

its posing of an IQ test challenge to its Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who apparently had the decency to semi-privately describe Orange Thing as a “fucking moron.”

Just when you think Orange Thing can’t get any more idiotic, it proves you wrong. Last week during a White House dinner for the nation’s military leaders, Orange Thing actually said this to reporters during a photo-op with top Pentagon brass: “Do you guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm. We have the greatest military people in this room, I will tell you that.”

When a reporter asked it to clarify what it meant by a “storm,” Orange Thing grinned and said, “You’ll find out.”  You, know, like when the Korean peninsula is reduced to radioactive ash.

Orange Thing’s former real estate and golf buddy Senator Corker came into Orange Thing’s Twitter sites after telling a New York Times reporter something that is common knowledge among the Washington establishment: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly are the only things keeping Clockwork Orangutan from blowing up the world. Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the national paper of record that Orange Thing “is treating his office like ‘a reality show,’ with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation ‘on the path to World War III.’” Further:

“In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts ‘like he’s doing The Apprentice or something…He concerns me…He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.’…Mr. Trump poses such an acute risk, the senator said, that a coterie of senior administration officials must protect him from his own instincts. ‘I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,’ Mr. Corker said…In a 25-minute conversation, Mr. Corker, speaking carefully and purposefully, seemed to almost find cathartic satisfaction by portraying Mr. Trump in terms that most senior Republicans use only in private. The senator, who is close to Mr. Tillerson, invoked comments that the president made on Twitter last weekend in which he appeared to undercut Mr. Tillerson’s negotiations with North Korea. ‘A lot of people think that there is some kind of ‘good cop, bad cop’ act underway, but that’s just not true,’ Mr. Corker said. …Without offering specifics, he said Mr. Trump had repeatedly undermined diplomacy with his Twitter fingers.”

“ …All but inviting his colleagues to join him in speaking out about the president, Mr. Corker said his concerns about Mr. Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican…’Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,’ he said, adding that ‘of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.’”

You know it’s bad when the world’s leading climate-wrecker (Tillerson, the former longtime CEO of Exxon-Mobil), and two former top U.S. generals, one of whom is nicknamed “Mad Dog” (Mattis), are the only “adults in the room” keeping near-term Armageddon (the environmental version that Tillerson dedicated his prior career to advancing will take a bit longer) at bay

It really is this weirdly dark and dystopian in Washington D.C. right now.  This is all actually happening in the capital of what is still the world’s most powerful Empire – a nation that has at least 800 military bases spread across more than 80 foreign countries and “troops or other military personnel in about 160 foreign countries and territories.”  (Fun fact: it also maintains more than 170 military golf courses abroad!). The U.S. (home to less than 5 percent of the world’s population) accounts for more than 40 percent of the planet’s military spending and has  – under the “adult-supervised” command of Orange Thing –  more than 5,500 strategic nuclear weapons, enough to blow the world up 5 to (by some expert estimates) 50 times over.  Historian and fellow CounterPuncher Gary Leupp describes this scary, surreal, and novel state-of-affairs quite well:

“…Trump is surrounded by generals and fellow billionaires who are always looking askance at him, always worrying what he’ll say next, concerned about his moronic qualities. The multiplicity of leaks from the White House indicates wide dissatisfaction among staffers …his own inner circle of officials … are worried he’ll do something crazy (like bomb North Korea and start World War III). Not that they can confront him directly…Tony Schwarz, co-author of Trump’s Art of the Deal (1987) someone with unique insight into Trump’s mind, has just published a book describing the president as ‘unfit’ and mentally ill. He says those around Trump don’t dare challenge him. He cannot accept criticism. He is surrounded by diffident staff who secretly fear and despise him, baby-sitters to a 71-year-old man who boasts he hasn’t changed since age 7.”

“This is an unprecedented situation. The Trump regime is not a consolidated fascist regime, as some contend. It’s not organized and efficient enough for that. Nor is it a regime of the Nixon, Reagan or Bush type, in which the president was surrounded by aides who at least felt respected. The White House is a house of gloom and humiliation, governed by an angry narcissist whose every empathetic gesture (like hugging flood victims) is stage-managed by handlers always on edge about what he’ll say to the child he hugs.”

“The most powerful man in the world is privately judged a moron by his own staffers. He is less a Nixon or Reagan than a Caligula or Nero, surrounded by bemused and nauseated senators... The U.S. is bombing half a dozen countries and engaging in intense inter-capitalist rivalries, with Europe, China, Japan. It does so in an atmosphere of confusion produced by the personality of the U.S. president, which does not lend itself to facile analysis. Or psychoanalysis” (emphasis added).

Why is Orange Thing still in office? A big part of the answer is the U.S. Constitution, the same openly anti-democratic yet persistently sacred 18th Century parchment that allows U.S. presidents to be Collegiately Elected after losing the popular vote.  Impeachment and then removal of a president is a remarkably difficult thing under its rules, which require a majority vote (for indictment/impeachment) in the U.S. House and a two-thirds vote (for conviction/removal) in the Senate.  Impeachment has happened only twice (to the ridiculous border-state presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton) but removal, never (though Richard Nixon would have received the full treatment had he not resigned.)  Impeachment is close to unthinkable when the president’s own party holds the House and removal is next to impossible when that same party claims the Senate.

There’s also the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, passed half a century ago. Corker raised the specter of this little-known Amendment earlier this year. The fourth section of the Amendment gives the U.S. Vice President, the presidential Cabinet, and Congress the power to remove the President without impeachment. One provision in the Amendment allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to send a letter to Congress stating that the President is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” This letter would immediately initiate a transfer of power to the Vice President, subject to Congressional review. A different provision in the Amendment empowers Congress to form its own body to evaluate the President’s fitness for office, eliminating the need for the Cabinet’s involvement in the process.

The 25th Amendment does not specify any specific form of disability. It permits Congress to determine and enforce its own criteria for presidential fitness. Congress can deem the President “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” if they conclude that he cannot be trusted with classified information from intelligence agencies.

There’s no medical diagnosis required. The Amendment leaves the door open for the president to be kicked out of the White House for being too stupid, too vicious, too much of a “fucking moron” and a narcissistic jackass – for being like Orange Thing, who may well be suffering from dementia.

Here, again, the right-wing partisan balance in Congress is the great obstacle.  The first method under the 25th Amendment is subject to Congressional Review.  The second requires Congress’s initiative.

What are the odds that enough Congressional Republicans could be convinced in coming months that it is time to relocate Orange Thing back to Trump Tower? I have no idea but would not rule it out.  The “populist” NAFTA-bashing and thrice-married, pussy-grabbing Orange Thing did not run as a classic right-wing Republican in either the free-market or the evangelical Christian “family values” mode. The orange-tinted beast was somewhat reluctantly embraced by the GOP establishment and its different factions largely out of opportunism. “Real Republicans” bet that they could get a lot of what they wanted from the Malignant One.

So far, it’s a mixed bag as far as they are concerned.  The party’s big backers certainly like the considerable amount of financial and environmental deregulation and the related hard-right makeover of the federal bench that Orange Thing has been able to directly implement.  The radically regressive GOP establishment approves of the White House’s powerful anti-regulatory wrecking ball. Bigshot Republican funders also like the lucrative “defense” contracts that the Napoleon wannabe (surrounded by military men) promises for the military-industrial complex. They also certainly appreciate how Orange Thing’s antics can demobilize and depress the public by deepening its already considerable disgust with American politics.  They are partial to how the nightly Orange Freak Show helps further divide the working-class majority (along lines of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, nationality) while diverting public attention away from the from the major and interrelated problems of our day: ever-deepening hyper-inequality, abject corporate-financial plutocracy, institutional racism, rampant sexism, and environmental ruin.

But Orange Thing has not delivered on its promise to push tens of millions of poor and sick people off the health insurance rolls by killing “Obamacare” and replacing it with something worse. That great failure does not bode well for Orange Thing’s promised big tax cut for the already obscenely rich. And meanwhile, Orange Thing’s incredible unpopularity and clumsiness is threatening to crash the rightmost of the two reigning capitalist parties.” The common-sense social-democratic health insurance solution of Single Payer (which even Orange Thing itself once seemed to almost embrace years ago) is gaining traction as the obvious alternative to the corporatist and so-called Affordable Care Act.

To make matters worse for itself, the Narcissist-in-Chief has idiotically started personal feuds with Senate Republicans from John McCain (AZ), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), and Corker (head of the upper chamber’s Foreign Relations Committee), down to Jeff Flake (AZ), author of a recent “free market” treatise that portrays the “populist” president as a borderline fascist.

What is the point at which Orange Thing becomes so bad for the Republican Party, Brand USA, and/or the ruling-class that it must be removed even before the next appointed quadrennial electoral extravaganza?   I suppose the coming Bob Mueller report on Orange Thing’s alleged collusion with “Russian interference” in our great but non-existent democracy (a corporate oligarchy well before Putin’s hackers supposedly stole our freedom) could combine with a presidential failure to slash taxes for the wealthy Few (a curious thing to want in a nation where the top tenth of the upper 1 percent already owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent) and a potential coming loss of the House and/or the Senate to the Democrats to do the trick.

But I wouldn’t hold my breath. My guess is that the Republican powers-that-be would rather avoid the potentially populace-mobilizing and possibly violent (a considerable number of gun-toting white-nationalists can be expected to lose their shit if their orange beast is removed even by a normal election) implications of Constitutional removal.  Look for GOP “adults” to work quietly behind the scenes to ensure that the “fucking moron” is not a candidate for a second term;

Meanwhile, who wants the Christian white-nationalist and arch-homophobe Mike Pence for a POTUS? That would be an ugly thing indeed.  Who, for that matter, wants the Democrats back atop the ship of state? They’ve long been a Wall Street-and Council on Foreign Relations-captive Inauthentic Opposition Party (IOP) that dutifully serves the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money, empire, white supremacy, and eco-cide when in nominal power.  Democrats always hands the keys to the White House back to some deranged Republican Wrecking Ball of a president in four (Carter) or eight (Clinton and Obama) years anyway.

If we had a respectable and authentic people’s opposition movement in this dying imperial wasteland, the madness of Orange Caligula would have sparked a great popular upheaval by now. That’s where the corporate-Democratic Party really earns its Wall Street backing. The dismal. dollar-drenched, faux-left, pseudo-progressive Democrats and their great media outposts (MSNBC, the Washington Post et al.)  have been working 24-7 to prevent any such overdue worker-citizen rebellion. In coordination with the deployment of the their various organs of fake Resistance (Indivisible and MoveOn et al.), their critical mode of containment has been their neo-McCarthyite “Russia Did It” narrative. Their conspiratorial Russiagate storyline – still chugging along and waiting for its moment to recapture the news-cycle from epic hurricanes, nuclear war-scares, and mass shootings – is the Democrats’ great counter-diversion.  It has four basic objectives: keep alive the potentially New Cold War with Russia (a critical part of the U.S.-imperial agenda that Orange Thing failed to grasp – and a great contributor to the potential for WWIII, by the way); distract attention from critical interrelated problems (savage class inequality, mass-poverty, racism, mass incarceration, police-statism. eco-cide, corporate plutocracy and globalization, and U.S. imperialism) in which they (as the other major-party wing of the same capitalist and imperial bird of prey) are deeply complicit; avert public acknowledgement of their core Clintonian responsibility for the installation of the Orange Thing in the White House; keep the people off the streets.

Radical/actual leftists certainly don’t want World War III, God knows.  But we can hardly be expected to pine for a Mike Pence presidency or for a coming Democratic (Corey Booker/Kamala Harris/Kirsten Gillibrand/Michelle Obama/Andrew Cuomo/Patrick Duval/Hillary Clinton) presidency, likely to spark new levels of dangerous conflict (WWIIII?) with Russia. The next corporate-Democratic White  House can be expected to prepare the ground for the next white nationalist thing of a Republican presidency – probably a more serious, charismatic, and steely-eyed version of the current one.

We also should not be expected to shed tears over how Orange Thing is further diminishing the mass-murderous American Empire’s brand strength and cultural capital. The current orange presidency is another if spectacularly terrible presidency in a long line of illegitimate presidencies resting upon an illegitimate and criminal party system, an illegitimate and criminal plutocracy, an illegitimate and criminal empire, and an illegitimate and criminal, eco-exterminist system of class rule.

The U.S. Empire has no clothes? Its putting its worst possible public relations foot forward? That’s not all bad. Who wants Uncle Sam more decently clothed? Let this vicious Empire stand more accurately exposed as the racist, classist, sexist, criminal and eco-cidal prison, police and pariah state that it really is. Who wants the “adults in the room” – the real and “responsible men of power” – to run this morally failed Mafia state with more outward acceptability and effectiveness than it deserves? Let the de-legitimizing stink and stain of America Disgraced spread far and wide.  Let the Orange Caligula spark heightened mockery and rage, fueling a new popular will to confront American empire and inequality at home and abroad. And along the way, let us form the kinds of social and political movements that are up to tackling what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “real issue to be faced” – the “radical reconstruction of society itself” (something far more serious and challenging than “punching Nazis,” by the way) – beneath and beyond the big money, big-media, major party candidate-centered “quadrennial electoral extravaganzas” (Noam Chomsky) that are sold to us as “politics,” the only politics that matters.

Help Street keep writing here.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).